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4 May 2006 : Column 1801W—continued

Home Working

David Simpson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people in his Department have been enabled to work from home in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [68004]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) does not collect such data. Staff in ODPM may work at home subject to the agreement of their line manager and the business needs of ODPM. In making such arrangements full account is given to the rights of staff with children under the age of six under the Employment Act 2002 to request a flexible working pattern. ODPM supports such arrangements which assist staff maintain a satisfactory work/life balance, subject to there being a business justification for the arrangement.


Helen Southworth: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will take steps to increase the number of shared equity homes in (a) Warrington and (b) other housing hot spots in the North West. [67848]

Yvette Cooper: The Government are committed to tackling affordability. It has extended its range of housing options to include Homebuy, an equity sharing scheme, which will extend the opportunity for home ownership to 100,000 households by 2010. In support of
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this, HomeBuy agents will provide a 'one stop shop' and gateway to low cost home ownership opportunities in 37 Zones across the nine English regions. Already in the North West £9.7 million has been allocated to the Open Market Homebuy scheme, delivering 340 units.

Furthermore, the Government have increased investment of £970 million through the Housing Corporation's Affordable Housing programme to deliver 35,000 homes by registering social landlords over the next two years. In the North West £201 million has been allocated for the Affordable Housing programme for 2006–08 delivering 2,248 affordable homes for rent, 1,573 low cost home ownership options with an additional 205 improved homes for rent. In Warrington £1.7 million over the same period has been allocated, providing 40 units and affordable housing in one of the most deprived wards.

The scale of the task is not underestimated and that is why the Chancellor announced the establishment of a joint Office of the Deputy Prime Minister/Treasury Shared Equity Task Force in the Budget. The taskforce, led by myself and my hon. Friend financial secretary John Healey, will consider the case for Government intervention in the housing market to assist 'intermediate' households into home ownership using shared equity products. The taskforce will report at the end of the year, to inform comprehensive Spending Review decisions in summer 2007.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the Government's definition is of affordable housing. [66266]

Yvette Cooper: Current planning policies, in Planning Policy Guidance Note 3: Housing" (PPG3) and Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions Circular 6/98 Planning and Affordable Housing", require a local planning authority to define what it considers to be affordable in its areas in terms of the relationship between local income levels and house prices or rents for different types of households.

Draft Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3): Housing" (PPS3), published for consultation in December 2005 and which will, once finalised, replace PPG3 and Circular 6/98, has a new draft definition of affordable housing:

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which councils have stock transferred (a) some and (b) all of their council housing; and when they did so. [66437]

Yvette Cooper: A table containing the information requested has been placed in the Library of the House.
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Local Government Finance

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much additional revenue has been raised by local authorities using their discretionary power to abolish the council tax discount on second homes since 2004. [66285]

Mr. Woolas: The amount of additional revenue raised by local authorities using their discretionary powers to reduce the council tax discounts on second homes was:

These figures are estimates based on information reported by local authorities on the CTB1 and CTB1(S) forms.

Local Government Strikes

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many man-hours have been lost as a result of recent industrial action in connection with the Local Government Pension Scheme. [66436]

Mr. Woolas: This information is not held centrally, and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Ministerial Cars (Fuel Costs)

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the fuel costs were for ministerial cars used by his Department in each of the last five years. [67022]

Jim Fitzpatrick: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Transport (Dr. Ladyman) on 27 April 2006, Official Report, column 1226W.

Muscular Dystrophy

Anne Milton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what Government grants are available to people with muscular dystrophy to adapt their home environment to their needs. [46667]

Yvette Cooper: Social service authorities have a duty under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 to arrange for a disabled person, practical assistance in the home, and any works of adaptation or the provision of additional facilities designed to secure greater safety, comfort or convenience. The social services have a duty to ensure that any assistance required by the disabled person is secured and they may charge for any services they provide.

One principal way in which such assistance is available is through the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) programme which is the responsibility of my Department and administered by local housing authorities. This is a mandatory entitlement for eligible disabled people in all housing tenures which provides financial assistance up to a maximum of £25,000 per application for adaptations to make the home safe and to secure access for the disabled person to all the main facilities in the home. This grant is also means-tested.

Community care equipment which a disabled person has been assessed to need by social services and which costs less than £1,000 is provided free-of-charge.
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New Deal

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what arrangements there are for governance and scrutiny of the new deal for communities programmes. [66303]

Mr. Woolas: New deal for communities (NDC) partnerships are governed by boards comprising elected resident members and representatives of delivery partners such as the council, providers of local services (e.g. health, housing, community safety, education), and the commercial sector and are therefore directly accountable to the community.

The NDC partnerships operate within a legal framework involving their accountable body (usually the local authority) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (largely through the Government office). Grant is paid to the accountable body pursuant to a funding agreement between the accountable body and ODPM.

The NDC partnerships work with their accountable body to develop delivery plans which are approved by Government offices on behalf of Ministers. The accountable body is responsible for ensuring that they and the NDC comply with the terms and conditions of NDC grant including financial reporting requirements. The Government office monitors the performance of the accountable body (AB) and ensures that it properly monitors the partnership.

Guidance on governance issues are set out in the NDC programme notes on the website at (particularly programme notes 20 on codes of conduct and 27 on board effectiveness).

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